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Metiaburj: A Deposed King and Travelling Labour

Travelling popular cultures at the turn of the twentieth century.

A King is Deposed:

It was in May 1856 that the deposed King of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah, arrived at the Bichali Ghat in Metiaburj. Having had his kingdom, founded in 1722, annexed by Lord Dalhousie, Governor General of the East India. He arrived in Calcutta and rented a  riverfront bungalow from Maharaja of Burdwan, still hoping to somehow get it back - and to plead for it, with Dalhousie and, if possible, with Queen Victoria herself. A year later, however, the revolt of 1857 put paid to whatever chances he may have had. Wajid Ali was imprisoned in Calcutta’s Fort William for two years. When he came out, all hopes of regaining his old kingdom dashed, he spent his last years trying to turn Metiaburj itself into a mini Lucknow.

Lucknow itself, under the Avadh regime, was known for an extraordinary flowering of music and dance. Many of the dancers and musicians now came to Calcutta, as they went to other princely states and to the new colonial cities, looking for work.

In preparation for the walk: screening of Satyajit Ray's famous Shatranj ke Khiladi/The Chess Players (Urdu/English, 1977) earlier in the afternoon.

Shatranj Ke Khiladi/The Chess Players (Satyajit Ray, Urdu/English, 1977)

Wajid Ali Shah (Amjad Khan) dancing in Satyajit Ray's film.

As the twentieth century dawned, another historical turn would see these musicians undertake another journey.

The Surinam Ghat:

Fifty years on, the river flowing past Metiaburj became the centre for another migration: that of indentured labour to the Caribbean. Among the labourers shipped primarily to Surinam were, now, some of the dancers looking for work in plantations.



Metiaburj WALK

Participants to gather outside the Chaturbhuj Mishthan Bhandar in Kidderpore in buses) at 4 PM
From there they proceed in groups (in hired Auto) to BNR Railway Club which once housed Parikhana and Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (we reach here at 4.30)
At 5pm the group moves to Surinam Ghat / Bichali Ghat.( )
At 6 pm the group reaches Sibtainabad Imambara.(
7 pm : Dinner at India Restaurant (Kebabs, Paratha, Biriyani, Phirni).

* Do note that this is an optional extra: you need to enroll, and there will be a small extra fee.

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